Atlanta's Pro Team

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Event Recap: “Atlanta’s Pro Teams: Using Tech to Redefine the Fan Experience”

On Feb. 22, 2017, this AIMA Innovation Series event drew more than 200 digital marketing professionals to learn how Atlanta’s pro teams are redefining the fans’ in-game experience. It turns out that advancing technology, though compelling on its own, proves to be most effective when used in service of the fans’ priorities such loyalty, passion, and community.

The evening’s speakers included:
•  Mike Gomes, SVP of Fan Experience for AMB Group (Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United FC and Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
•  Meg Ryan, Senior Director of Marketing Strategy for the Atlanta Hawks
•  Adam Zimmerman, VP of Marketing for the Atlanta Braves

Prior to a panel discussion and Q&A moderated by Todd Slutzky of Nebo Agency, each speaker took turns presenting a multimedia overview of how they approach building an optimal experience for their team’s fans.

Batting leadoff, the Braves’ Adam Zimmerman told the audience that a great fan experience “starts with building a brand” that can inspire a compelling atmosphere and ambiance at the stadium. He said a fundamental part of the Atlanta Braves brand derives from the geographical and social characteristics of the Southeast. So at its new venue, SunTrust Park, the Braves aim to combine the region’s traditional values such as friendliness and hospitality with current ones such as cultural diversity and economic vitality — summarized by the phrase “Welcome Home.” For innovation, the Braves collaborate with local partners such as Moxie to try a lot of different things and see what works; this includes aspects of the in-stadium experience but extends to new business models for Braves-related content creation and distribution.

Next, Meg Ryan shared that the Atlanta Hawks cherish their ties to the local community and emphasize the idea “True to Atlanta” in thinking about innovation and the fan experience. She said this reaches beyond the arena and into Atlanta’s neighborhoods, where for example the Hawks will build 25 basketball courts in the next five years. Two recent innovative marketing programs the Hawks executed were “Swipe Right” Tinder Night and an “Emoji” code and key social campaign; these found success because they reached and fit with the “socially savvy, high digital” Hawks audience. At the arena, high-tech visual projections on the court and 3D imagery push the frontier of fan entertainment.

Mike Gomes began by explaining that owner Arthur Blank’s personal commitment to Atlanta informs every aspect of the experience for fans of the Falcons and Atlanta United. The organization invokes the “Heart of Atlanta” and “Brotherhood” to describe an emotional connection with the city and its residents, which is strengthened in adversity as well as in success. In terms of innovation, the teams have created technological advances such as the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s huge video boards and unique retractable roof. But innovation doesn’t have to be based in technology; even the “fan-friendly pricing” of concessions supports the teams’ commitment to their fans.

Event sponsor Nebo hosted the event and enhanced the main program by offering bountiful food from Sweet Auburn BBQ, beverages from Terrapin Beer Co., treats from King of Pops, a photo booth, games and diversions, door prizes, trivia prizes, and branded clothing and souvenirs from the panelists’ sports teams.

Opening announcements by AIMA board member Laura Berkobin featured AIMA’s new membership structure and benefits and the annual showcase and social event “Celebrate ATL presented by Swarm,” coming up on March 16.